Dogs and ponies

Stage Stop: Day 3

The Grand Tetons presented a beautiful backdrop for today’s race outside Driggs, Idaho. The morning sun was smiling on us. Right from the start the teams had to climb a steep hill. Here is the view from the top:

Stacey Teasley in front of the Grand Tetons

Stacey Teasley in front of the Grand Tetons

Then it was into open meadows, rolling hills, and narrow forest trails.

Tugging behind the sled.

Tugging behind the sled.

Every musher has his or her own signature kick. Here is Troy Larsen demonstrating how to finish in third place with one dog in the sled!

Troy Larsen kicking it.

Troy Larsen kicking it…

And finally, the stars of the race. Amazing to see the energy of the dogs after running 30 miles in less than 3 hours with some serious climbs and descents.

Lead dogs

Lead dogs

Looking forward to the next stages. It is supposed to snow…

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Dogs and ponies

Stage Stop: Day 1

Time to take off the training wheels.

Today the big race begins in Jackson with a ceremonial start and a close by finish at Snowking. The winner starts last the following day in Alpine, the last team to Snowking is first to leave Alpine. Where would you want to be?

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One Man's Paradise

Race fever

The International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race is about to start.  On Friday, January 30, more than 20 teams from all over the world start in Jackson, Wyoming, a 9 nine day race. The teams will cover 40-50 miles each day.  The Stage Stop showcases the beauty of sled dog racing and aims to make sled dog racing more accessible to the public. In addition, it is a goal of the race to spread the word about the need for childhood immunizations and each year the race makes a contribution to communities on the race route for childhood immunizations.

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Into the Wild

The long way home

The treacherous trail conditions this year have taken their toll on mushers and dogs. 12 teams have scratched so far. Mushers hit the ground, sleds turned upside down, and dogs were sliding down steep slopes. Then again 57 teams are still in the race, some on record pace.

The bad luck of some gave us the opportunity to talk to mushers and listen to their story. Jim Lanier, 73, has run the Iditarod sixteen times! He always finished. Not this year. After a bad fall in the Steps he decided to scratch at Puntilla Lake. Scratched and bruised he spent two days with us, taking care of his dogs and himself. While he was boiling water on the ice and preparing food for his dogs I tried to pry information from him about his motivation. It was a clear morning. At 9 o’clock the temperature was about 10 degrees, but with a 10 knot breeze out of the North, it was admirable how this man worked the stove, filled the bowls with a hot mix of kibbles, fat and water placing the food in front of every dog with loving care, enticing them to eat.

Jim Lanier

Jim Lanier

“Why do you want to come back next year? What is your motivation?”
“Same as yours. Why do you spend the winter here.”

“Well, I am not really sure.”
“Same here.”

So much for that. I guess the race is an adventure, raising and training dogs is a lifestyle. Once exposed to it and catching the bug you are hooked.

Interested in reading more about Jim first hand? He has written “Beyond Ophir“, confessions of an Iditarod musher, an Alaskan odyssey.

The long way home

The long way home

Musher, dogs, and sleds are being air lifted back to Anchorage in the coming days. It will be a long trip home.

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Into the Wild

The day before the race

Siberian

Enjoying a moment in the sun

The big sled dog race to Nome started today in Anchorage. Just for show. The mushers gave rides to VIPs through town and paraded their B-team, while the race dogs got a last rest day before the real start tomorrow.

A crew of veterinarians, checkers, and other Iditarod staff came in today and set up their check point at our cook house. We were busy all day preparing the lodge for guests, staff, media, mushers, and dogs.

We are expecting the first team to arrive at Puntilla Lake some time in the early morning of Monday. Within 9 hours all teams should pass through our check point. I hope to catch some of the action happening in between.

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Siberian
Into the Wild

In their own way

Today, Peter Ripmaster, the last runner in the Iditarod Trail Invitational left Puntilla Lake with blisters on his feet. In obvious pain, but otherwise in good spirits.

Robert Loveman spent the night at Rainy Pass Lodge with four Siberian Huskies on his way to Nome. He is not participating in the Iditarod race allowing him to set his own pace and playing by his own rules. He is mushing a small dog team, which he supports by being on skis. This year’s icy trail conditions may support his ambitious goal.

Robert Loveman and his Siberian Huskies

Robert Loveman and his Siberian Huskies

Good luck to both of you.

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Into the Wild

You wonder why?

The winners of the 2014 Iditarod Trail Invitational are probably already back home, while others are continuing their adventure heading towards Nome. As in other sports the leaders made it look easy. Not only because they were in great shape but also because they had outstanding conditions, hard snow, no wind and cold temperatures that kept the trail firm and gripping. Now the conditions have changed. Above freezing temperatures brought some rain, and made the trail soft and mushy. The athletes that are still on the trail are the real heroes in my book. They are tired, at their limit, exposed to the elements for a much longer time. We have seen blisters and frostbite. Fatigue, hunger, and thirst.

Still, many athletes have noticed and commented on the beautiful scenery. They also expressed respect for their competitors breaking records left and right this year.

The question remains: Why? What is the motivation for these individuals to enter such a race? For some it is about winning, for others it is about finishing, for some it is an adventure, for some it is a vacation. It was a pleasure to meet these folks, especially the ones that took the time to chat with us or have their picture taken.

Passing through Puntilla Lake

Passing through Puntilla Lake

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